Today, the world counts more millionaires than ever before — and an increasing share of them are seeking to make a difference in big, bold ways.
Fueled by the emergence of a new class of wealthy individuals, developing and emerging economies are witnessing a sharp growth in the number of homegrown private foundations.
Meanwhile, American self-made billionaires continue to dominate the global giving space — a trend which is likely to continue as the rising stars and new big names of Wall Street and Silicon Valley increasingly embrace philanthropy.
This trend spells good news for global development. The new generation of philanthropists prides itself on having a more strategic, tech-savvy and hands-on approach to global giving. But who is getting down to some serious work?
While many up-and-coming foundations intentionally fly under the radar as their founders explore ways to shake up traditional development approaches and maximize impact, Devex researched a wide range of charities jumpstarted by self-made millionaires to identify a few promising ones we think you should know.
All of the private charities listed below were founded by American business leaders who are intent on donating most of their wealth during their living years. Ambitious, fast-growing, and open to new ideas, these “new money” foundations are just beginning to make their mark.
AOL cofounder and internet pioneer Steve Case, along with his wife Jean, launched the Case Foundation in 1997. Initially focused on the couple’s home state of Hawaii, the Case Foundation recently expanded its agenda to invest in ideas, companies and people that have the potential to “change the world.”
As a firm believer in the transformative power of entrepreneurship, the Case Foundation prioritizes impact investing and disruptive business models. It also supports initiatives that aim to maximize the use of technology to drive civic engagement and increase social impact.
While the Case Foundation mostly makes investments, it also disburses a large number of traditional grants. One reason to keep an eye on this foundation is its dedication to improving the practice of philanthropy and commitment to sharing its experiences, may they be successes or failures.
After spending more than a decade under-the-radar, the Dalio Foundation seems well on its way to becoming one of the top charities in the U.S. Founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Raymond Dalio, the foundation’s budget has soared to $840 million in 2013 from $3.8 million in 2005.
Analysis of the Dalio Foundation’s grant-making reveals an array of funding interests. In the past, the Dalio Foundation has provided financial support to orphans in China, global policy and advocacy, microfinance initiatives and polio eradication campaigns. It has also been responsive to urgent humanitarian needs, making big contributions to fund reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
With a net worth of $15.4 billion, the Dalio family still has many cards to play. Both Mr. Dalio and his wife Barbara have signed the Giving Pledge — a campaign led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the world’s richest people to give a majority of their wealth to charity. Fulfilling such a promise will require the couple to hand out more and bigger grants very soon.
Founded in 2011 by Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, Good Ventures is emblematic of how Silicon Valley billionaires engage in philanthropy with the same mindset that led their tech companies to success.
The foundation supports organizations and projects which demonstrate strong evidence of effectiveness and impact. Its strategy is simple: To systematically rely on evidence and reason to determine where one can achieve the biggest difference. It also turns to a number of experienced and evidence-driven funders, particularly GiveWell, to inform its grant-making and build its capacity.
Although Good Ventures is still in the process of defining specific grantmaking priorities, it has already pinned down international development as a major area of interest. As a result, the foundation is expected to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars a year to organizations and causes it finds promising in the near future.
In many ways, Jim Greenbaum is a veteran of philanthropy: After successfully building up a large telecom company in the 1980s, he retired in 1999 to focus exclusively on giving back. But from $2 million a year, the ex-entrepreneur’s giving will now rise to $5 million — an increase which, combined with a unique approach, definitely warrants attention.
Although the Greenbaum Foundation’s overarching mission is to alleviate acute human and animal suffering, it isn’t tied to a defined set of priorities or programs areas. There is, however, a specific rationale behind the foundation’s grant-making: Causes funded have to be relatively uncrowded and allow for impact at scale.
Such thinking has led the Greenbaum Foundation to take on the role of a “catalytic” funder, one that helps proven and cost-effective initiatives ramp up. The philanthropy also puts strong emphasis on the individuals behind an organization — seeking out dynamic, passionate leaders who can sustainably scale their organization’s work and impact.
A billionaire venture capitalist who changed the face of music, Sean Parker now has his eyes set on philanthropy — a sector he plans to disrupt through his brand new $600 million foundation.
In addition to being one of the most prolific givers in the U.S., Parker has recently expressed interest in improving the health of millions across the globe — but he doesn’t intend to leave his entrepreneurial mindset at the door. The foundation’s global health program will focus on issues where Parker believes clear and definable objectives can be attained. One such example is his plan to eradicate malaria within the next 10 to 20 years.
In the coming years, the Parker Foundation is expected to make big bets on an array of potentially game-changing projects. Another thing to look out for is how Parker will use his newfound status as a big-time giver to influence the giving of others.
Manola De Vos is a development analyst for Devex. Based in Manila, she contributes to the Development Insider and Money Matters newsletters. Prior to joining Devex, Manola worked in conflict analysis and political affairs for the United Nations, International Crisis Group and the European Union.
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